In Post XVI we saw that the birth of Jesus Christ is rooted in history. Continuing to explore that; consider the Jews, the Greeks, and the Romans.
The Jews represented the Covenant People, through the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob God transmitted His promises and through this line Messiah/Christ was born. God’s Word was preserved through the Jews from generation to generation. Because the Jews were a people of The Book, they took great care to transmit The Book; the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the mid-20th Century bore witness to the accuracy of Jewish textual transmission.
Geographically the Jews had lived around 1,400 years in Canaan/Israel/Palestine. This area was along a major international trading route, both land and sea, and was also part of the route that armies took when marching to and from Africa, the Middle East, the East, and Asia Minor. This economic and military travel exposed many people groups to the Jews and, we may assume, exposed them in some degree to the strange God the Jews worshipped as the one and only God. Perhaps the very idea of monotheism was enough, in and of itself, to invite attention.
In addition to the above, in the 6th, 7th, and 8th centuries B.C. a significant number of the people of Israel and the people of Judah were deported from their own land. In the case of Israel we have little information about their dispersal; in the instance of Judah we know that they were deported to Babylon for 70 years, after which a number returned to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. We also know, in the case of Judah, that some of the Jews escaped to Egypt.
By the First Century A.D., when Jesus Christ is born, Jews are found throughout the Mediterranean world, as well as to the east. There are at least three characteristics of First Century Jews when they are found outside their homeland;
- They gather together in community for worship.
- The have The Book and they read it in their gatherings.
- There are Gentiles (non-Jews) who are attracted to the God of the Jews and who gather with the Jews to hear The Book read and interpreted. These Gentiles are known as “God fearers”.
In the First Century; through the Jews the promises of God are preserved; through the Jews the Messiah/Christ is born; through the Jews the peoples of Africa, Asia, and Europe are exposed to the true and living God; and gatherings of Jews provide natural preaching stations for the Gospel to be proclaimed to both Jew and Gentile, they provide regional launching pads for the Gospel.
In the next post we’ll look at the Greeks and Romans.